Tag Archives: yorkville illinois

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A Walk Down to the River

It was starting to snow and 14 inches were being called for within the next 36 hours, I thought now would be a good time to take a walk down to the river.

On the other side of the river is a huge field ringed with trees. There are no homes in that stretch. Three deer could be seen in the field. They looked like they were playing in the snow. They would run, then stop. Then run again. Whenever they would stop they would look across the river at me. I had to be a good 150 yards away, but they were still cautious of this lone figure wandering down the hill toward them. Then they would go back to playing.

The river was pretty empty. A few geese were in the open water and I counted a half dozen blue herons spread out and hunkered down on the edge of the ice. Hunting I assume.

I got to the edge of the bluff, still a good 30 feet above the river and started wandering down the thin tree line. In one of the tallest trees that hangs out over the river were a couple of adult eagles. Of course I had to see how close I could get to them.

One didn’t like that and took off. The other didn’t seem to mind so much.

Debbie Granat and her daughter pulled up on the side of the road and I wandered over to talk. Her husband Larry started the Facebook page The Kendall County Bird Page and I rely on him for all things eagles in this stretch of the river. One of these days I’ll have a better camera and I can quit asking him for eagle images. Or, I’ll never tell him I got a better camera, keep borrowing eagle images and give him the publicity he deserves.

That sounds better.

After they left I turned around and the skittish eagle was back. I tried stalking up to them again, and again the skittish one took off. Decided to leave them alone and head downstream.

Off on the island was another eagle. In that short period of time, more geese were coming down to the river and a couple of hundred of them were circling the area.

I live about 80 feet away from a pretty heavily wooded ravine. I walked along the top of the bluff, heading for the mouth of the ravine. The tracks of deer, squirrels and what I assume are either coyote or fox were all using the ravine like a highway. I tracked them to the top of the bluff overlooking the ravine.

On a good day wandering down the steep slope of the bluff is a no brainer. Conditions did not make this a good day. All I could imagine was gravity taking over and suddenly finding myself in a heap at the bottom. The tracks being seen were all old, I convinced myself. No point wandering down there.

A juvenile bald eagle drifted overhead and landed in a tree a hundred feet away. This one was on to me, it took off long before I could get any closer.

In that short time, hundreds more geese had arrived. The honking was starting to echo down the river valley. The only ducks I can recognize from a distance are mallards, but I can see that others are different even if I can’t identify them. I saw a couple of other different types of ducks mixed in with all the other waterfowl.

The other day while out shoveling snow at sunset I stopped counting the geese flying overhead when I got to 500. Today, the geese weren’t coming in from north or south. The bulk of them were coming straight down the river out of the west.

This is what I’m going to miss when I move at the end of the month, that ability to wander down a hill and see such a variety of wildlife. Granted, I’ll still be living two blocks from the river, but it’s slightly more urban. There will still be plenty of geese and ducks around, but for the deer and coyote and the bulk of the eagles I’ll have to walk a good half mile downstream.

Maybe a little less.

I’ll try to think of that as a motivating factor, hiking that extra half mile.

I could use the exercise.

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It’s 7 PM and I just came in from wandering around while smoking a cheap cigar. It has to be about 30 degrees out there, no wind, the snow is falling straight down and the neighborhood is dead quiet.

Down on the river a few geese were honking and at the mouth of the ravine, coyotes were howling.

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Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, Wrap it Up

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
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As far as I’m concerned, the removal of the 175 year old, nearly 8 foot tall dam near the mouth of Blackberry Creek was a raging success.

I gauge this primarily on the migration of smallmouth bass up the creek, of which there were hundreds. But numerous other species of fish were also caught far up the creek this past year. It’s hard to tell if those species were already in the creek, most likely, but I have no doubt quite a few new fish found there way up stream. One of the ones I was surprised at was the longnose gar. Never saw one beyond the base of the removed dam, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to make it further inland.

Only time will tell.

If you look through the list of posts made in the link at the top, there’s a gap in what I had been putting up. There were two reasons for that. First, by the first week of July it had pretty much quit raining and the creek kept dropping. Second, when this happens I don’t like to go out and pound the hell out of fish that are sitting in diminishing pools of water.

Now and then I would head over to the creek mainly to see if any progress was being made in restoring the area of the removal back to something a little more natural. You’ll see some of those photo’s below. For about seven weeks I didn’t bother going over to the creek at all. Low water and it was basically like watching grass grow at this point. As you’ll see, it was exactly like watching grass grow.

So to start, on July 7th I wandered to the creek:

When they put in all the rock, they threw down a considerable amount of seed in and above the rocks. It was coming in pretty thick.

A number of nice sized trees were planted.

A large area was covered in grass seed. Problem was, and how do you plan for it, this is when it pretty much stopped raining for a few weeks.

Another long stretch of rocks had grass coming in pretty strong above it.

A few weeks ago I read an article about the dam removal. I can no longer remember where and I can’t find it. But I remember IDNR stream biologist Steve Pescitelli being quoted in it at length. One of the things he mentioned was the smallmouth bass migration up the creek and that they found them four miles inland.

For over a decade I’ve been exploring Blackberry Creek inland, but never fished it. Since I pursue smallmouth bass in creeks, I assumed because of the dam near the mouth there was no point looking for smallies. Over those years I would fish at the base of the dam once or twice a year. Every smallie caught was tossed over the dam, my own little stream stocking program. A couple of years ago a friend sent a note that they had caught a couple of smallies about a mile up from the dam. Apparently my private stocking program might have worked a little.

This year I went inland looking for them. I’ve been eyeballing a spot ten miles inland for many years and on July 12th I did a little exploring:

The creek is a little flatter this far inland, much like the land surrounding it, but you still get some classic riffle/run/pool scenarios.

I remember the day as 90 degrees and the creek a little low, so I was happy to catch a couple of these 10 miles inland.

On July 22nd I was back at the main construction site to see how things were growing along:

Boulders were placed along the edge of the parking lot in an effort to idiot proof the area. Heaven forbid common sense tells you not to drive your car out there.

Over two weeks later, still no rain, nothing growing. I was a little concerned about the trees getting stressed out, but won’t know if they survived till spring of next year.

I didn’t go back again till August 11th:

We still hadn’t got much rain, but the grass behind the boulders didn’t seem to care. I didn’t get a picture, but beyond that grass line there was still nothing growing.

One of the things I don’t think they should have done as part of this project is restore what they call a wetland. If the dam wasn’t there, this wetland wouldn’t have existed. At least not eight feet above the creek bed. I think this is all fill that slowly collected over 175 years and if they really wanted to restore this wetland, then they should have taken the whole area down to creek level:

Now this wetland is an eight foot tall ridge along the creek with a big dry hole behind it.

In order for the water to fill this hole the creek has to come up over three feet to get over the rocks they put along one small stretch. That doesn’t happen that often and this hole will dry up again. If in 20 years you come here and find this whole area to be a nice, heavily wooded area made up of oaks and maples, I don’t know anything about it…

There are some flowers establishing themselves in amongst the rocks.

I didn’t go back to the creek again till October 2nd. Most of the pictures I took that day are in a post that I put up on October 7th. There’s an update on the creek in that post.

We had been getting rain by then, but it came too late to get things growing. It did soften the dirt in the area though. The one thing that pissed me off that day was seeing this:

Remember the boulders on the edge of the parking lot? Apparently they weren’t put close enough together. No matter how well you try to idiot proof something, God will come along and simply create a better idiot.

And with this, I am done with my Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Updates.

There will be no more.

I’m sure I will go fishing on the creek come March, I’m sure I’ll catch some fish, I’m sure I’ll take some pictures and I’m sure I’ll write something up about the fishing trip.

But I will no longer mention the creek by name. There will be no recognizable photos of the creek posted. As far as anyone else is concerned, it’s just another one of the seven or so creeks I fish that happen to feed into the Fox River.

This is going to be done for purely selfish reasons.

The interest level in fishing the Fox River and it’s creeks, at least in the areas I like to fish, has dropped off considerably over the past eight years.

I run into practically no one while out there fishing.

And I want to keep it that way.

Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, What’s a Little Snow when There’s Work to be Done

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
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On Tuesday we got snow. According to those that measure these things, Yorkville got more snow than anywhere else in the Chicago area, 11.7 inches. My back can attest to that. Days later it’s still stinging from moving a few thousand pounds of it from around my house.

I always assume that snow like this will bring construction projects like the Blackberry Creek Dam Removal to a screeching halt. I assumed wrong, what’s a little snow. When I got to the site, three guys were working to remove the upper coffer dam that was laying all over the creek.

I’m sure there’s a little more of it left in the creek.

But the bulk of it has been removed.

In spite of all the snow a fair amount of work had got done this week. Back at the old dam, I checked out the pump area to see if there were any remnants of goldfish still around.

No signs of gold anywhere.

Quite a bit had been dredged out, but they seem to have stopped putting the excavator in the middle of it all. It looks like they had been doing the digging from off on the side. Walking on all that mud was difficult with my mere two hundred pounds. I was sinking in pretty deep. I could only imagine how much an excavator sinks in this stuff.

I was hoping they were going to dig out much more on the left hand side.

At a meeting on the project back in March of 2012, I pointed out how that whole left side looked like it might be a limestone ledge all the way down to the old creek bottom. I suggested that they just expose the limestone and leave it at that. I was able to walk along there for the first time and I still think that’s what it is.

It looks like they’re not going to bother though. That’s a shame. There are a couple of other creeks that I fish that have this same type of limestone ledge. Would be nice to see it here.

After getting the progress photos I wanted, I had to scour the area looking for leftovers. Following are the things that I find sitting on top. Makes me wonder what is buried under all that dirt. This looks like the remnants of an old park bench.

Though no goldfish were found, some of the carp I had seen the previous week had nowhere else to go and I’m sure they wouldn’t have fit into the pump hoses. The critters are slowly enjoying a muddy meal.

One of the last things I thought I’d find is a frog, dead or alive. This one, not so alive.

Not sure how old this bottle is, but they definitely don’t make them like this anymore. The glass is thick and has an interesting decoration around it’s middle. I took this one home and cleaned it up. Looks brand new. There are markings on the bottom that I hope will lead me to what it once contained.

I know this has to be fairly old. Don’t see too many skeleton key locks anymore.

When I came across these two bottles, I noticed the caps still on them. A little scrape of the mud revealed two full bottles of Bud Light. I considered taking them home to see if they still had any fizz or taste to them, but I wouldn’t drink this kind of beer swill if it were fresh and given to me for free. I passed.

Of course, I had to go check out the upstream area of the creek.

I already know a good half mile of that stretch. I know where the fish, if and when they show up, will be holding. Classic fish holding spots.

I also know that when I do go fish that stretch, to get back I have to wade back to where this picture was taken. I tried walking through those trees once in order to get back to my car.

I will never, ever try that again.

Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, Rain, Ice, Snow Stops Everything

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
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The other day I got out when it stopped raining to take a look at the Blackberry Creek dam removal site. I still think it was a good idea to not go wandering around through all the mud, but I kind of wish I did. After everything froze over and then got covered in snow, it’s all white. Makes it hard to see the details.

I come from a couple of generations of roofers. My dad had me help him on a roof the first time when I was eight. This continued on and off into my teens. One day he said “I’m going to show you how hard this is so you do good in school and don’t become a roofer.” That pretty much worked, but I think now at 57, if I were a roofer, I’d still be working. Instead, I did the whole do well in school thing and became a graphic artist. At this age, no matter how good my skills are in the graphic arts, nobody wants you.

But that’s a post for another day.

Because of the early years in roofing, I like to think of myself as surefooted as a cat. I have no qualms wandering all over a roof and to this day I like to watch my wife squirm as I stand on the edge of a roof, cleaning out gutters and carrying on a conversation with her while she’s down on the ground. Simple pleasures.

That being said, this is what it looks like when a supposedly surefooted old guy steps on what he believed to be snow covered ground.

As I mentioned to someone recently about getting old, gravity is a bitch. And yes, it hurt, but I think my pride is more bruised than anything else.

There has been virtually no noise coming from across the river since the rain and I can’t blame them. Big ruts of frozen mud and layers of ice are everywhere. Plus the cold and the wind makes it brutal to be out there. A project needs to get done, but delays are sometimes welcomed in weeks like this. The old dam itself is pretty well covered in ice.

Some work had been done in the week before the rain. Now it’s going to be interesting to see how they are going to get all this water…

…to squeeze through this hole, especially at high water events…

I think it’s going to look pretty darn interesting as it comes flying through this hole.

This is the part that’s the hardest to figure out what they’re doing. This part makes sense, sort of…

But I have no clue how they’re going to tie this together with the rest of the creek. Because of the weather, I have a feeling it will be a little while before it gets done.

I did find the breach around the upper coffer dam. It’s not much of one and looks like it barely wore away the edge of the shore, but there was a consistent flow of water going through.

This breach was enough to fill the first stretch of the project that was completed. The water on both sides of the coffer dam are now at the same level.

The snow obscures it a bit, but I tried to take pictures from the same spots that I’ve taken them in the past. I think it gives you a pretty good sense of just how much water is now in here.

From where I took the following pictures, two weeks ago it looked like this.

Now there is no sign of any rock, the water has completely covered it.

The section directly in front of the downstream coffer dam was the deepest and there was a pump running constantly to keep the water out. Two weeks ago it looked like this. Notice the generator on the far left hand side.

Luckily they pulled the generator away from the coffer dam. You can also get a feel for how bad the mud was when it was raining.

It would have been a big disappointment to have to haul the generator out of this…

The 10 day forecast has things going back to normal, but that’s in the 30′s with night time temps below freezing. The couple of days where it does come close to 40 degrees, it says it will be raining. There’s a lot of ice and water that needs to go away. I have a feeling it’s going to be awhile before the project gets rolling along again.

I may have to brave the mud the next time I come here, I really want to get closer when all the ice and snow starts going away. I’d like to get some pictures of how much the water has covered all that rock. I’ll just have to hope my cat like skills are still alive in me somewhere and work on mud, but at least if I find out they don’t work, the landing will be softer.